Commander pays homage in France

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Commander pays homage in France
American Legion National Commander Fang A. Wong and American Legion Auxiliary President Kris Nelson placed wreaths at the Normandy American Cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach. Photo by Doug Malin

American Legion National Commander Fang A. Wong and American Legion Auxiliary President Kris Nelson placed wreaths June 5 at the town square where the D-Day invasion began 68 years ago.

The ceremony, which involved active-duty U.S. military personnel and veterans organizations from France, attracted hundreds of visitors on a wet and windy Tuesday afternoon.

The wreath-laying ceremony at Ste. Mere-Eglise honored military sacrifices of the Normandy invasion and saluted a half-dozen living D-Day veterans in attendance.

Among the veterans in Normandy this week is is John Perozzi of Cherry Hill, N.J., who was 24 years old when he parachuted to within 800 yards of German-held Ste. Mere-Eglise shortly after 1 a.m. June 6, 1944.

At 92, he returned to receive the French Legion of Honor. "I am so happy to see how the French have done, and how they have rebuilt after the war," he said following the Tuesday ceremony. "It's really nice to be here, with my family."

Perozzi was wounded three times between D-Day and the fall of Berlin in 1945. He fought in Normandy, jumped into Holland and survived the Battle of the Bulge, earning numerous citations, including the Bronze Star.

The national commander and Auxiliary president wrapped up their visit to Normandy by placing a wreath Wednesday at the Normandy American Cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach.

Following that ceremony, Wong and Nelson met with World War II veterans and several Legionnaires and Auxiliary members.

Wong, Nelson and American Legion National Sergeant at Arms David Louie raised the U.S. flag at the cemetery, where more than 9,300 Americans are laid to rest, including one of The American Legion's founders, Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.

Roosevelt, Jr., died of a heart attack five weeks after storming Utah Beach with the first wave on June 6, 1944. He was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in the invasion.

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